As a Brisbane locksmith for nearly 20 years now, I have seen many changes to my industry. When I first began, locksmithing was not even considered a trade and no ticket or certificate was available. It was really a case of sink or swim; you either had the skills or you did not. Twenty years ago, locks were more likely to be repaired using parts available from the manufacturer. However, in today’s lock industry, mass production in other countries has made it more economical to replace locks than it is to repair. That is not to say that the skills learned 20 years ago have no relevance. Having a professional locksmith who you can turn to for lock and key service is extremely important. If you do choose to have a handyman or carpenter install your lock then you could be faced with large repair bills in the future. Fractions of an inch in error can cause your lock to fail in the future, avoid this from occurring by selecting a true professional from the beginning.
Just last week I was called by a real estate agent and asked to respond to the site as soon as possible to repair a faulty front door lock. I wish I could say I was shocked by what I found when I arrived on site but honestly it is all too common. The lock was a Gainsborough Tri-Lock and the latch was not retracting all the way into the door when the tenant used the handle this was, of course, creating a lockout situation and the tenant was scared to close and lock the door since they may not be able to get out again.
A handyman would have simply replaced the lock, written a bill and moved on, but would have missed the underlying problems. The tell tale sign that there were deeper issues was the new lock did not fit easily into the old holes on door. This resulted in friction with-in the lock mechanism which in turn created excessive wear on moving parts. All leading to lock failure on a lock less than 10 years old.
Pictured above is the Snib Rotor from the Tri-Lock. If you look closely, you will notice the splits around the square hole. Once split, the snib rotor cannot hold the square spindle firmly and of course will not retract the latch properly. This results in the lockout tenant had reported.
Could I have simply replaced the old lock with a lock which did not have a split in the snib rotor? Yes, however this would only solve the problem in the short term. A handyman or carpenter is likely to simply install a new lock to solve the problem in the short term, without eliminating the long term issues that caused the original lock to fail. This is why some locks have a much longer lifespan than others. A handyman or carpenter who installs a lock does not have a concentration which focuses solely on locks and keys like a locksmith does. So when they install a lock, normally to save the builder a few dollars, there are likely to be long term issues which can cause you lock to fail or become damaged. This is all because a locksmith knows and understands how a lock works, and which parts wear and which ones don’t and why.
The photo above shows how important it is to have your lock properly installed. The two holes at the top of the image are the ones I drilled so that the lock would work properly. The two just below it are the original holes drilled by the original installer. Notice what is different? The top holes are located a little to the right. This is the correct position for the fixing holes, and by having them installed in the correct position we can eliminate internal friction and as a result increase the functional lifespan of the lock. Please note that I also used a lock with a slightly longer cover plate to cover the old incorrect mounting holes.
The first problem was of course the mounting holes which were in the wrong spot. Once I had fixed that issue and assembled the lock I noticed that the door seals were also creating back pressure on the latch. It is this increased dragging on the latch that also creates premature lock failure. In order to relieve pressure, the only action to take was to have the door’s seal removed.
One thing to note is that 99% of the locks available for the Australian domestic market now are NOT designed to operate with the back pressure created by installing a seal around the door frame. Yes, by all means, install a weather seal at the bottom of the door (I use and recommend Raven Door Seals). However, you should think long and hard before you go to your local hardware supplier and buy a roll of felt or rubber sealing for the frame. Ideally a little bit of free play (or a rattle) of 1-2mm is perfect.
A simple test is to turn or push your door handle while you have the door open, if it operates with ease when door is open but is stiff when door is closed, then you may have a problem. Its ALWAYS cheaper to get a locksmith to service an open door than it is to get a locksmith out to open a door lock which has failed and then fix the issue that caused the failure in the first place. The important thing is to take preventative action by calling a locksmith as soon as you notice the issue, rather than waiting until the lock deteriorates at a later point.
The poor owner of this property had to buy a whole new lock to fix the snib rotor problem and pay for the time to diagnose as well as repair the back pressure and crooked lock. Unfortunately for this owner, replacement Tri-Lock’s are not cheap! It would have cost far less to fix before the lock failed.
A Locksmith Saves You Money in the Long Run
It is also worth noting that when any lock manufacturer cycle tests their product it is never tested on a door with back pressure and the lock is always installed straight and true. I have seen many warranty claims against manufacturer’s rejected because the lock was “not installed to manufacturer specifications”. When I first began locksmithing one the first things I was ever taught was that the difference between a lock or a key working and not working is 0.002 of an inch! Next time you have your lock service, ask yourself; is the small savings in the short term, worth the additional repair costs in the future?
This post was authored by Tony P. of Pronto Locksmiths. Tony has over 15 years of professional locksmith experience and is happy to share his vast knowledge with residents of Southeast Queensland.